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  #1  
Unread 05-15-2019, 08:09 AM
AlphaBettor AlphaBettor is offline
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Default Different Frequencies for Different Muscle Groups

There used to be an old bodybuilding idea, that seems to have fallen out of favor, that certain muscle groups can and probably should be trained more often than others. The idea here is that they are stubborn but recover faster than others for whatever reason.

It has been a long time since I've read these recommendations, but I seem to remember calves and abs being in the 'train more often' category, whereas chest and certainly lower back would not be able to be trained hard as often. Too much soreness and possibility for injury after hard workouts on those, or something along those lines.

I personally have found arms, and biceps in particular, very much fit in the 'can train more often' category. One of my earlier experiences with this was when I did a program based almost entirely off myo-reps. I still use myo-reps to a small degree, and find some of Borge's work interesting, but this particular program was a flop for me.

The exception was biceps. The split went something like this:

Mon: Chest/back/shoulders/triceps
Tues: Biceps/legs
Thurs: Chest/back/shoulders/triceps
Fri: Biceps/legs

Biceps were trained with a single exercise along with legs and biceps grew very well. I trained biceps first in many cases (which adds yet another variable in that muscle groups trained first often receive the best stimulus.)

For these purposes, I'm considering this 4x/week frequency for biceps. The back work often included both a rowing and pull up type movement. I don't really care how much it's counted for volume wise (I know this has come up a few times in the always pleasant discussions about max volume), but the biceps *are* working hard during intensive back work such as rows and pulldowns so I am counting that back work as biceps work for the purposes of counting frequency, even if there is no direct biceps work done on that day.

Since then, over the years when happening to use a 2-way split, I have often moved the biceps work (and sometimes triceps) over to the leg day. And every time, this 3-4 week frequency outperforms 2x/week frequency for purposes of training biceps. I don't know exactly why this is, I'm just saying the tape measure confirms what the eyes can clearly see.

As noted above: I find this to more true of biceps than it is of triceps, but triceps can take advantage of this to some degree as well.

For example, one of my favorite 'upper body focused' programs is actually one Lyle posted in a thread a while back:

Mon: Chest/back/shoulders
Wed: Legs/arms
Fri: Chest/back/shoulders

There are many ways to do this. A simple approach would be to use the generic bulking routine 'upper' days as a base for the chest/back/shoulders days. Do some delt isolation at the end, but drop the arm isolation. Do the arm isolation work with legs. Leg work is done at maintenance and do a few sets of antagonist paired super sets (e.g. ez curl and lying triceps extension), maybe a bit more if you have the time and inclination. It just works.

What does the research say? I'm well aware of the Wernbom review which says 40-70 reps twice a week (or was it 40-60, or 42-66?) and I do think that review gives some good generalized recommendations. However, as with any of the hypertrophy research, there are some limitations in terms of population studied, number of participants, their training status (often untrained or lightly trained), etc.

The Wernbom review focused on quads and biceps, as these are the two muscle groups that have been studied the most in hypertrophy research.

Imagine my surprise when, in the biceps section, the study which showed the most hypertrophy for biceps used a 4x/week frequency! Then, the studies that showed the second, third, and fourth most hypertrophy for biceps used a 3x/week frequency. This is entirely in line with my own personal experience, as well as observations from others I respect in this business (upper//lower+arms being a somewhat common modification to a more true upper//lower.)

However, there were some very poor performing 3x+/week frequency biceps studies and this brought the mean down. This mean was what was focused on and I thought the authors did not expound on the data well enough, instead trying to tie things together neatly with quads, which were much more consistent in showing no further benefit past 2x/week.

The curl junkies at the gym are doing it wrong. The biceps are relatively small and can handle fairly limited volume in any given session. They could drop some of the superfluous exercises, distribute the rest on another day or two in some semi-reasonable manner and would very likely get better growth as a result.

Using the methodology discussed above (counting compound pushing/pulling as arm work for purposes of tracking frequency), you can evaluate other hypertrophy research as well.

For example, Brad and others have done various studies comparing something like 3x/week full body vs 3-way split. Call it chest/back, legs, shoulders/arms.

When evaluating quads/legs, 1x/week is too little, so 3x/week at worst ties, and usually wins out. It's a similar thing with biceps. 2x/week may be fine for a generalized recommendation (certainly works for quads) but it's too little for biceps-- 3x/week always or almost always beats 2x for this and probably some other small muscles... but how often are abs and calves compared?

By the way, the motivation for this post actually came from a paragraph Borge wrote on his site: https://borgefagerli.com/the-short-a...-and-stronger/

Quote:
I may add in a set of arms if I feel like it, but contrary to popular belief biceps and triceps actually take longer to recover than most other muscle groups and are already indirectly involved in pushing and pulling work, which is why some studies show no additional arm growth from adding e.g. biceps curls to a chin-up routine.
Now, this was made after describing an upper body workout with plenty of compound pushing and pulling. It is reasonable to say that adding additional direct arm work on top of this will have a very limited effect, if any.

However, I have no idea why he says that biceps/triceps actually take longer to recover than most other muscle groups as I have found the opposite to be the case (again, more true of biceps than triceps). And I know the more common view is that muscle tissue is the same basically everywhere (fair enough) and there shouldn't be any difference in terms of recovery. I think there's more to it than that and the old-school bodybuilders kind of had a point.
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  #2  
Unread 05-15-2019, 01:38 PM
lylemcdonald lylemcdonald is offline
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The calves logic was: calves get a lot of work every day so they need more. Nah, just train them correctly.

Abs, meh: guys think doing abs will give them a 6 pack

the idea that smaller muscles groups recovered more quickly than larger has been around for ever and might give *some* basis to training more frequently. You can do this just with a proper split like the old

chest/shoulders/biceps
back/triceps

So you get indirect work one day and direct work the other

In presmise you could do arms 4 day/week but overlap and impacting other workouts becomes an issue along with tendinitis adn connective tissue overwork
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  #3  
Unread Yesterday, 10:11 AM
AlphaBettor AlphaBettor is offline
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My goodness, I didn't realize how much of a novel I had typed up. Interesting reply though.

Agree with you on calves. I actually have a suspicion that the work the calves receive on a day to day basis could slow down the detraining effect that us desk jockies might get in some upper body muscles. Thus calves twice/week turns out to work just fine. Lot of speculation there though.

Abs meh, whatever

I actually do like pairing biceps with compound pushing work with this same idea in mind-- get indirect work one day, direct on the other. A similar thing could be done with triceps (or chest/shoulders can even be separated, precluding the need to do this altogether, though this can have its own issues.)

These things open up countless new ways to sequence things, some of which work well and others not so much. It's the usual competing pros and cons of different approaches.
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  #4  
Unread Yesterday, 11:55 AM
AlphaOmega AlphaOmega is offline
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Cbris Beardsley posted a chart on muscle volume and it was surprising to see some "small" groups like deltoids having more volume than lats.

Along these lines, the assumption that smaller muscles can be trained more often may need rethought.

Delts were the most voluminous followed by triceps (over pecs and lats, surprisingly.) This is just looking at upper body muscles, btw
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  #5  
Unread Yesterday, 01:46 PM
AlphaBettor AlphaBettor is offline
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Can you post a link to that? I'm curious what that says although I wouldn't consider delts to be a small muscle group in the first place. If you're just looking at one head e.g. rear delts, yeah, but taken as a whole, not really.

In the studies I've looked at that are set up in some reasonably intelligent way, 3x/week biceps consistently outperforms 2x/week for biceps, even if the results don't reach statistical significance in some cases. This is when counting both direct and intense 'indirect' (e.g. upper body pulling close to failure) work toward frequency for biceps, even if the study's authors did not.

I'm singling out biceps as it's a particularly good example for a number of reasons:

- There's plenty of biceps data, empirically and in hypertrophy research.

- It's a small muscle in terms of size and fatigues relatively quickly/can handle limited volume in a given session.

- Overuse injuries in the elbow/wrist/forearms tend tend not to be as common or debilitating as back or shoulder injuries, though this is probably not much consolation for those who have an aggravated biceps tendon or what have you.

Last edited by AlphaBettor : Yesterday at 01:51 PM.
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  #6  
Unread Yesterday, 02:20 PM
triliad triliad is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlphaOmega View Post
Cbris Beardsley posted a chart on muscle volume and it was surprising to see some "small" groups like deltoids having more volume than lats.

Along these lines, the assumption that smaller muscles can be trained more often may need rethought.

Delts were the most voluminous followed by triceps (over pecs and lats, surprisingly.) This is just looking at upper body muscles, btw
first thought reading this is that the people training in this scenario don't know how to train their lats and pecs properly and are doing the pushing and pulling with more delt work in mind
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  #7  
Unread Yesterday, 08:12 PM
lylemcdonald lylemcdonald is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlphaOmega View Post
Cbris Beardsley posted a chart on muscle volume and it was surprising to see some "small" groups like deltoids having more volume than lats.

Along these lines, the assumption that smaller muscles can be trained more often may need rethought.

Delts were the most voluminous followed by triceps (over pecs and lats, surprisingly.) This is just looking at upper body muscles, btw
Well I bet if you look at the delt 'volume' it's due to being spread across what is really three muscles: anterior, medial, posterior each of which has different lines of pull action.

To hit even medial/rear adequately, since they have different actinos will require more 'apparent' volume than lats. That is

Lats
4x8 pulldown
3X12-15 pullover

vs.
Delts
Upright row: 4X8
Latearl raise: 3X12-15
Face pull: 4X8
Rear delt flye: 3X12-15

Delts is higher 'volume'. except that it's not since you might as well consider medial and rear delts to be separate muscles. They just happen to be part of a single muscular grouping.
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  #8  
Unread Yesterday, 08:13 PM
lylemcdonald lylemcdonald is offline
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Oh yeah, everybody knows that triceps need 33% more volume than biceps

It's got three heads, right.
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  #9  
Unread Today, 03:51 AM
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zLeeKo zLeeKo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lylemcdonald View Post
Oh yeah, everybody knows that triceps need 33% more volume than biceps

It's got three heads, right.
And let's not forget that you hit biceps with squatting, because what holds the bar, amirite?

Hence, tris needs more volume to grow.
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